"Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're RIGHT!" Think of all the "EASY" goals that you've achieved without any anxiety. They were easy because you deemed them so. You knew you could do them without great difficulty and you did! Now imagine if you had the same mindset for a CHALLENGING goal. Often what makes something challenging is the belief that it will be difficult to accomplish. While some endeavors may be inherently more difficult than others, your MENTALITY has a larger impact on their "difficulty" level than anything else. If you want to accelerate your vocal progress, start by examining your mindset. It's really as "easy" as that!
Want to know of a singer that you should NEVER listen to? The singer that is singing before you at an audition! If they are good, it may make you feel inferior. If they are bad, it may give you a false sense of security. Either way, getting yourself into "competition mode" by listening in will stifle your creativity and prevent you from truly being yourself. Auditions actually aren't competitions. Instead, they are simply opportunities for the casting team to find the ideal fit for their project - and for YOU to be that person. Sometimes someone "better than you" will be cast. Sometimes someone "worse than you" will be cast. Either way, this is the wrong thinking. Don't look side-to-side at others. Look AHEAD... toward the wonderful audition you are about to give.
Do you know what it's like to be a sound engineer? How about a freelance bassist? A theater producer? You don't need to be an expert in every field, but it's very helpful to know what it's like to work in other areas of the Music Industry. Learn more about the kind of hours your colleagues work, how they're paid, and how they go about finding jobs. It will help you grow both as an artist and businessperson. It will also help you understand circumstances that may seem frustrating or difficult. Often these are the result of factors from another facet of the business that you didn't know about. So, learn about your colleagues! You'll be happier, more professional, and others will value the fact that you know where they're coming from!
Mirror, mirror on the wall! Thou art a practice tool above all! While you shouldn't always practice singing in front of a mirror, an occasional check-in with your unbiased wall-mounted observer is very beneficial. Certain physical movements and tensions can become habits and eventually crutches if they are not eliminated. So, sing in front your mirror from time-to-time to gain awareness of your own tendencies. Search for physical habits that distract from your singing or add tension to your instrument. See if you can achieve your best sounds without any undesired movements or tensions. Soon your mirror practice will reflect a polished performer and a technique that's the fairest of them all!
How does the DISCIPLINE of practicing become the ART of performing? When preparing and rehearsing, it's all about "taking in." You must read, study, memorize, and shape every nuance of your material. You create the through-line and the journey of your character from start to finish. But, when it's time to perform, a fundamental CHANGE must take place. "Taking in" must turn into "letting go!". Before you walk on stage to perform, don't think about all the beats you want to hit and moments you want to create. Don't set your mind on what's going to happen (much of that is out of your control). Instead, tell yourself, "I've done the work. I have everything I need." Set your mind on trusting yourself and letting go. The moment you do this is the moment when your craft becomes your ART!
Forget YOU! Or, more specifically - forget yourself! It's one of the most valuable things that any performer can ever do. You've already mastered every note, every acting beat, and every word. Now try to go back to a blank-slated nothingness. Bring your imagination to a time when you didn't even know your song. Pretend that you're a total newbie who has never even learned a song, sung a note, or conveyed a feeling. How spontaneous would you feel if you were singing for the first time? How would you discover and navigate your creativity? Dare yourself to forget. To let go and completely lose yourself in your music. Even if it's just for a brief moment... Forget YOU!
We often think of our vocal quality on a SPECTRUM. Bright vs. Dark. Forward vs. Back. Heavy vs. Light. There are many factors that contribute to these qualities and they don't always have to work together. Think about sound mixing boards in a recording studio. We don't raise or lower all the faders at the same time! Instead, we look for the best balance of the faders, adjusting them individually or in various combinations. We can think of singing the same way. If you're looking for a brighter tone, you can raise your larynx, brighten your vowels, or add some "twang." What if you brighten your vowels while lowering your larynx? What if your larynx stays neutral and you add some twang while you keep your vowels the same? Each of these elements (and more) can function independently giving you countless options. Become the sound engineer of your own voice!
Ask yourself an important question: "What does it mean to be a True Artist?" Your answer may dictate your future. Does it mean being famous? Does it mean making money? Does it mean supporting your colleagues? Does it mean loving your craft? Does it mean cherishing your vocal journey every single day of your life regardless of what people say? Does it mean finding your Joy? Or, something else? There's nothing right or wrong about any question you ask or answer you give. Just remember, the True Artist that you dream to be, may become a REALITY. Dreams can come true. So, make sure that what your soul TRULY wants lines up with the kind of Artist that you desire to become. If you're clear, you may look in the mirror one day and say - YES. This is exactly what I had hoped to do with my vocal gifts!
Give your entire spine all the LOVE it deserves! Your spine is made of 33 vertebrae, starting all the way up in the center of your skull and extending all the way down below your hips. When you're warming up to sing, give your spine some TLC by doing a very slow roll-up and paying attention to each individual vertebra. Start with a few deep breaths in a low forward bend. Then, as you roll up slowly, try to feel each bone align with the one below. Be careful not to "hinge" up when you get to your shoulder blades or your neck! Spinal flexibility leads to better breathing, alignment, and freedom from tension in the larynx and neck. It's also one of the best ways to improve your voice without even singing a note!
Your EARS don't just sit atop your head! They are incredibly sophisticated! Your ears perceive an astounding amount of vocal variation. Just think of the many different VOWELS you can distinguish. There are over a dozen vowel sounds in the English language alone, and we speak our native languages without even thinking! Use this innate auditory knowledge to help your singing. Having trouble with a hard note or word in a song? Maybe you're DISTORTING the vowel. Try modifying your tongue, jaw, and mouth to make it resonate a little more purely. Or, find a vowel that your voice likes best. Sing on that preferred vowel first and then let it transition to any vowels that give you trouble. Your ears won't just sit there - they will guide the way to greater clarity and vocal freedom!
Studies have shown that breathing through the NOSE has many benefits - it FILTERS bacteria from the air, ASSISTS with good circulation, SLOWS the breathing rate, and IMPROVES overall lung volumes. In addition, inhalations through the nose before vocalizing usually encourage Nasal Resonance to be maintained throughout the sung phrase. The only downside to Nasal Breathing is that sometimes the breaths are too slow for inhales during songs that contain quick phrases. In these instances, a DUAL nose and mouth breath is optimal. So, go ahead and take a nice, clean, and smooth breath in through the nose before you sing... whenever you've got the time!
Having trouble singing or performing in a new style? Maybe it's time to stop being a singer for a moment and instead become a SCHOLAR! Go to the style's source. Learn about the history of the style. Study the pioneers who took it from its roots to its current form. Understand the historical and cultural context that contributed to its rise and development. Listen to as many original recordings and live performances as you can. Try to connect what you hear to what you're learning. Music has a long and fascinating history that can help you embody styles outside your comfort zone. Smart singers make successful singers!
Should the larynx be high or low? Neither. And both. Contrary to old beliefs, different larynx positions are actually a healthy and viable way to produce different vocal styles and timbres. Lower larynx positions provide a darker tone while a high larynx positions enable a brighter vocal quality. However, the larynx should NOT be a pitch changer. Often a raised larynx is used to assist with singing high notes when the voice has not been developed or trained. This should be minimized as it can lead to major limitations and tensions in the voice. When developing your vocal technique, ensure that higher notes are accessible without hiking up the larynx. Once this has been achieved, if you choose to raise the larynx for stylistic purposes (like in a pop/rock tune), then feel free to raise it up! Explore all the possibilities your larynx has to offer!
How many times have you started singing a song you love, only to discover you don't actually know the words? It's easy to listen to songs and enjoy the tune without really paying attention to the lyrics. Yet, lyrics are essential to a song's success. How do the song's words communicate a story or a feeling? From a technical perspective, how do the consonants and vowels in each word establish style and texture? Do the breaths within the song change the meaning of the phrases and sentences? Lyrics give singers countless opportunities to communicate and express themselves. Your musicality, technique, and acting will all benefit from awareness of how the lyrics compliment the music. So, next time you listen - or sing along - give the words the attention they deserve!